Interactive map by Jesse Costa/WBUR; data from the state
BOSTON — The Massachusetts political world is still digesting Barney Frank's decision not to run for re-election. The 16-term congressman cited major changes as a result of redistricting, as one of the key reasons he's decided to retire.
To get a better idea of how the 4th Congressional District has changed, grab a map of Massachusetts and a couple of Magic Markers, a blue one to show Democratic strongholds and a red one to show where Republicans do well.
Find Newton and Brookline in the northernmost part of the 4th. Color those blue.
They're the most populous parts of the district, with a combined 97,000 voters, and they're the most Democratic. Voters in those communities picked Deval Patrick over Charlie Baker for governor and Martha Coakley over Scott Brown in the special Senate race. In the Legislature, Newton and Brookline are only represented by Democrats.
Newton and Brookline are pretty darn blue.
But you don't have to go too far south before you start coloring with the red marker.
Look at the new communities added to the 4th district. Towns along the Rhode Island border like Wrentham, Plainville, North Attleborough and Attleboro. While not as populous as Newton and Brookline, these types of communities — and there are about two dozen of them scattered around the district — voted for Charlie Baker and for Scott Brown, and in many cases their representatives on Beacon Hill are Republicans.
"I think the district would very much like to elect a Republican," said Rep. Elizabeth Poirier (R-North Attleborough). North Attleborough is one of the reddest communities in the 4th district. Poirier sees the departure of Frank, coupled with the newly drawn congressional district, as a prime opportunity for her party to send one of their own to Washington.
"I was thrilled when the redistricting plan came out and I saw the new district and how the lines were drawn, and I felt it was much more conducive to a Republican candidate," Poirier said. "I certainly hope that we'll be victorious in the end, and I have high hopes that we will be."
Poirier hasn't ruled out a run for Congress herself. But she's willing to offer advice for the candidates, who will likely be passing through town over the next year.
"They certainly need to pay attention to the people in the district. And don't take anything for granted. One of the things I find when people come in to run that are new, that have never done it before, they sometimes fail to talk to the people who have been there for a while, and to get the lay of the land through their eyes," Poirier said.
In downtown North Attleborough, residents like Robert Hatfield say they are likely to vote Republican.
"We need a change, I mean. There are too many Democrats in this state, and it's not good," Hatfield said.
But there aren't a lot of Democrats in North Attleborough smack in the middle of the newly drawn 4th Congressional District. Just ask Matt Trowbridge, who is a member of the North Attleborough Democratic Town Committee, a small but nevertheless optimistic group.
"It's going to be a real horse race, it really is, but in the end, I find Democrats put forward better candidates who aren't wishy-washy, who know what they want to do, who get in there and do it. And I think that's what matters to people more in the end," Trowbridge said.
A number of candidates — Democrats and Republicans — will likely be breaking out their maps and markers over the next few weeks, plotting their prospects in the new political landscape.
This program aired on November 30, 2011.